JJ reviews U2's Songs of Innocence

This album has been a long time coming. When Songs of Innocence 'fell out of the sky' from no where, Bono was quick to mention U2 had actually recorded two albums and would be releasing a companion album soon after.

Well, no one listens to Bono so when he said 2016, we knew he meant 2019 so it's with some listening pleasure we are reviewing Songs of Experience in late 2017.

And it is a  genuine companion album to Songs of Innocence by several means. The inspiration is of course William Blake's book of poetry which casts life into the two groups of innocence and experience, the lyrics of Bono which are hugely introspective of his life (every song could be about himself or his wife) and by way of two songs taking musical cues from Volcano and Song for Someone from the first album.

So, here's our review on a track by track basis:

Love is all we have left

A mild opening track which sets a sombre tone for the album. Atmospheric and it largely works except for the ridiculous vocal manipulation done midway through. Could not be more of a different album opener that Discotheque if you tried. There's clearly going to be no tounge in cheek or village people on album.

Woah, a bomb track straight off the board. Bland, uninspiring, how the heck did this song get through the band's internal vetting processes?

The first single, and a great U2 track. A zippy chorus that gets better and better with each listen. This song is kind of almost by-the-numbers single but U2 has always had better numbers than any band.  It's comparable to Magnificent from No Line on the Horizon in that sense.

Get Out of Your Own Way

Another single, that promises much when it evokes the opening of Where The Streets Have No Name but doesn't get quite to that level of glory. A firm track to back up the first single.

The one with Kendrick Lamar marshaling comment on rich people. Another American love letter from the band to America. They sure do write a lot about the US of A!

The chorus is a direct lift from Songs of Innocence's Volcano and easily improves on what was a weak track from that album.

Another stray from the rescue home. Could have done with a bit more TLC before being released back into the wild. 

No we are talking. The first genuinely brilliant song with a chorus hook to die for. A classic song in the sense that it's a upbeat song where the lyrics focus on the utterly depressing subject of Syrian refugees.

The Showman (Little More Better) 

If ever U2 were ever to write a proper Irish song that could be song across pubs around the world when the punters are up for a tune, this is it. 

This one of the best songs U2 have written in a decade. With a wonderful melody and a sing a long chorus to die for. 10 out of 10. 

A love ballad in pace, with lyrics that seem to be about Bono reflecting on his past life. The way Bono sings it is almost confessional. A potential live favourite. 


A clear love note from Bono to his wife Ali. Slow and plodding but builds nicely. 

The rocker song on the album, this has STADIUM written all over it. A filthy base line from Adam Clayton and his best in many an album. 

A filler track, but better than Lights of Home. Like many tracks on this album, a slow starter that land quite well at the end. 

The most beautifully haunting song on this album. Borrowing heavily from the wonderful Song for Someone this is U2's equivalent of Metallica's Unforgiven II
Simply superb and it continues U2's song tradition of really good album closing tracks. 


U2 will never record another Achtung Baby but we can still expect them to record cracker songs and a handful of those have been delivered with this album. A genuine surprise that the Lights of Home is so genuinely bad but that can be quickly over looked by the big singles and sing-a-long tracks that far outweigh any complaints.

Despite Bono's rhetoric' about American President Donald Trump being the basis for a lyrical rewrite on many songs, the effect is neglible - maybe there's a a dig about him as a dinosaur in The Blackout and a bit of a sledge in American Soul but that would be about it. 

A strong effort from U2 and they should be proud that they have made a true companion album. Many bands are afraid to try new things so as to not upset the gravy train but yet again the biggest band in the world has got their hands dirty.  

Tom and Hester, up a treee

Here's some of our more popular posts over the year from our Mortal Engines site that you may find interesting - they cover both the book and the making of the new Peter Jackson produced Movie which is set for release in late 2018.

This is an interesting article on Hester Shaw.

U2 has a new sweet album about themselves and Donald Trump

Ireland's Finest Band, U2 have recorded a new album, called Songs of Experience. It’s a companion album to the Songs of Innocence album which was released some three odd years ago.

Where Songs of Innocence reflected on the four members of U2’s childhoods (innocence and the loss of it), this new album features songs that are reflective of how the band has grown up themselves and lived their lives as adults.

Frontman Bono has said that many of the songs are about himself such as The Blackout and The Little Things That Give You away. Off the later, he didn't realise it was about himself until he had finished the song with the band.

Bono also took the opportunity to imbue his songs with barbed social commentary on the American Presidency of Donald Trump, of whom Bono appears to be no fan at all (read the lyrics to American Soul as case in point). This should be of no surprise to any U2 fan who has ever read any of the band’s lyrics as they often make political commentary on matters dear to their hearts.

Sonicaly, Songs of Experience is what has become standard U2. Songs such as first single, You’re The Best Thing About me are clean with an uplifting chorus. The Blackout harkens back to Achtung Baby’s Zoo Station and Little Things carries on in the same manner as Every Breaking Wave or Song for Someone did from Songs of Innocence. Again, this should be of no surprise for the listener as Experience is heavy tied to it’s companion album.

Order Songs of Experience from Amazon.

Best birthday card ever!!

My wife knows me so very well! Xx

Oasis: Looking Back in Fondness

Oasis: Looking Back in Fondness

So like I was working in a chicken fast food restaurant late one year in the mid 90s when I heard a song about ‘Rolling With It’ and thought it sounded pretty sweet. And that was that. Didn’t hear it again till weeks later. Then I heard Wonderwall. I NEEDED that song. I recall my mother drove me to K Mart (those were the days!) and I got what had turned out to be the biggest selling album in recent times. Oasis mania had arrived in Jimmy Jangles' house and I began to.. er.. roll with it.

I played that album non stop for two weeks. Then a friend of my lil bro turned up. This guy was like Mr Music Man and was like: "Oh Oasis?, here’s a copy of their first album."

And I'm like "Their first album? Oh, they did that Live Forever song I saw a video of once where they buried the drummer? Sweet."

Now we had two albums for the soundtrack of our summer which came down to playing Oasis in the garage while playing pool, drinking Steinlager homebrew clones. Bless. There may have been some of The Stone Roses songs played too, but that's another story.

And thus I became an Oasis diehard. U2 who? Summer finished and I went to university and started getting my hands on everything Oasis I could. I bought all the singles I could find. There was no ‘real’ internet in 1996/97/98 – it was just this magical thing I could get at the University labs so there was no real web surfing, it was all newspaper headlines. Yes, I had a folder full of Oasis articles where they stated “We’re bigger than God” and “We hope Blur die of Aids”. I signed letters home to my family as Noel Gallagher. That's how cool I was, even back then...

I decided to learn the guitar as I had to be able to play Wonderwall. Playing Oasis b-Sides became a speciality.

This fandom culminated in a crazy Oasis concert in Wellington where Liam stormed off, Noel did an acoustic set featuring Setting Sun with the band in full force for the last song of Champagne Supernova. Rough as, but Mega.
Anyways I thought I’d reminisce about each Oasis album.

Definitely Maybe

Oasis - Definitely Maybe: The DVD

Who wants to be a rock n roll star? If you believe the lyrics, Liam was one before the album made him one. It was the seemingly self referencing that was so clever. It was the same for GNR's Welcome to the Jungle – they were singing about the excess and trappings of Rock Stardom before they had it. It was like both bands were in on the joke about rock and roll joke before both bands became a rock and roll joke in many people’s eyes. I call those people Oasis Haters. Supersonic Live Forever, Slide Away. Songs that will stick around as markers in rock history for all those who follow (as they followed The Stones, The Who, David Bowie and of course, The Beatles.

What’s the Story? (Morning Glory!)

(What's the Story) Morning Glory?

Did you need a little time to wake up after being run down by Definitely Maybe? The title reference to cocaine would pick you up no end with songs Wonderwall, Roll With It, Don’t Look Back in Anger and a song so good the Beatles should have written it, Champagne Supernova. Those songs define Oasis and the Britpop mania wave they rode (and created). They will be living off the royalties from those songs till the day they die. Morning Glory is probably the soundtrack to a generation of British folks.

Be Here Now

Be Here Now (2 LP Vinyl)

Supposedly the Great Rock and Roll Swindle. The punters were eager for a fight and they easily stepped into the ring when they realised that Be Here Now was not another Morning Glory. A few weak songs (despite the A grade D’yer Know What I Mean and All Around the World) and over blown production left many fans turned off and Oasis labelled as has beens. On reflection, Be Here Now is chock full of great songs – the song structures in many are perfect – witness Don’t Go Away acoustically and any objective listener will note its beauty, shame its album version solo was basically a rip off of Slide Away crossed with Live Forever.

Heathen Chemistry

Heathen Chemistry

An album full of great songs but, like Be Here Now, the sum of its parts was not greater than the songs on it. On their own songs like, Songbird, Stop Crying Your Heart and Born on a Different Cloud were majestic. As an album the punters when eh, Oasis diehards loved it – the singles were quite popular.

Don’t Believe the Truth

Don't Believe The Truth

This was the unexpected comeback. Taken as a whole, this was an Oasis album you could listen to as one piece of music and totally enjoy. Lyla was a fun, poppy single, The Importance of Being Idle was a surprisingly quirky hit. The album owed a small debt to the Velvet Underground and a more considered song writing effort from Noel (the album did however have many songs from other band members). Let There Be Love was a beautiful album closer and could be seen as the antithesis of the sibling rivalry that dominated the headlines as Liam and Noel had regularly argued their troubles out in public over the years. Sadly the sentiment of the album closer was lost following the break up of Oasis after the release of the next album.

Dig Out Your Soul

Dig Out Your Soul[2 LP 180g Vinyl]

If you had to label an Oasis album as psychedelic, Dig Out Your Soul was an Eed up Oasis plugging in George Harrison’s sitar and turning it to 10 and a half. Falling Down and I'm Out of Time were Oasis best singles since anything from Morning Glory. Waiting for the Rapture was a wall of Oasis that had live favourite all over it. Lyrically it was sharp and it had an awesome example of drumming expertise from Zak Starkey on The Shock of the Lightning. If Don’t Believe the Truth was the album Oasis should have released after Morning Glory in preference to Be Here Now, this album should have been the immediate follow up (like Zooropa was soon released after to U2's Achtung Baby).

Lucky for those still listening to Oasis, this album did follow DBTT and so it got plenty of listens and some good reviews.

In hindsight, that the single Falling Down was first Oasis song in over a decade to not go top 10 in the UK was the signal that perhaps Oasis’ time was coming to an end. In the tour that followed, Noel finally got fed up, smashed Liam’s guitar and quit the band.

Conclusion: You know what's coming right?

For an Oasis diehard it's very easy to look back on Oasis' music with fondness. The music has been the soundtrack to my life so it's kind of hard to think of Oasis in any other way. As a chorus to one of their b-sides went, thank you for the good times.

What is U2's Songs of Experience about?


What's in an album's name? Songs of Innocence and Experience

Now that the dust has settled somewhat with the release of U2's Songs of Innocence, we can take the opportunity to ponder the album's title. 

What's in a name?

Where did it come from and what was the inspiration? 

A little bit of literary digging reveals the title to be a reference to William Blake's work, Songs of Innocence and Experience

What was this work about?

It was a collection of poems that reflected on how the state of childhood 'innocence' was influenced by the world cutting in on childhood as 'experience'.

These being influences such as corruption, oppression by religious movements, state domination and the machinations of the dominant classes.

So why is this relevant to U2?

Bono has centered several songs of the album's lyrics around growing up in Ireland.

He said in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine:

"We wanted to make a very personal album... Let's try to figure out why we wanted to be in a band, the relationships around the band, our friendships, our lovers, our family. The whole album is first journeys—first journeys geographically, spiritually, sexually"

Iris is about the early loss of his mother.

 Cedarwood Road is about childhood friends that group up with Bono in the street.

The Miracle reflects the influence of the band that The Ramones had on them as young men and even This is Where You Can Find Me Now is an ode to The Clash's Joe Strummer - a man whose songs greatly inspired them.

Raised by Wolves covers a car bombing in Ireland that Bono personally felt close to - real world experiences creeping in as he and his band mates become men.

The affect of William Black on Bono's song writing subjects has not been a recent observation. For a 1997 review of the 'Pop' album, poet Brendan Keneally noted when discussing that album's lyrics:

"We live in an age when sexuality and spirituality are usually treated as completely separate realities despite the fact that down through the ages some of the greatest poets and song-writers identified the presence of the one in the other. Think of Blake's 'Songs of Innocence and Experience', D. H. Lawrence's poems, stories and novels, and some of W. B. Yeats's greatest poems."

Light and dark? She wore lemon, but never in the day light...

Interesting, Bono was proclaimed the album was going to be called Songs of Ascent which I think was a reference to the Psalms of the Christian bible.

But that's not the half of it

The Joshua Tree album was originally intended to open with a track called "Beautiful Ghost".

Bono was to recite "Introduction to Songs of Experience" but the recording was dropped in favour of the album opening with Where the Streets have no name, a wise choice.

None-the-less it's clear Blake's writings have been on Bono's mind for some time.

In amongst the madness of the release of Songs of Innocence Bono revealed the existence of a second album U2 intend to release, Songs of Experience.

Released some 3 years after SOI, it acts as a direct companion album to Innocence - presumably in the same way the Grammy award wining Zooropa was a very close cousin to U2's career highlight, Achtung Baby.

Perhaps this second album will tell the kind of tales that Blake thought changed children - it would not be new territory for Bono. Indeed, the official word from U2 described the album's lyrical meaning as:

'While Songs of Innocence charted the band’s earliest influences and experiences in the late 1970s and early 80s, the new album is a collection of songs in the form of intimate letters to places and people close to the singer’s heart; family, friends, fans, himself

Check out the the Songs of Innocence album on Amazon and the new single from Songs of Experience, You're The Best Thing About Me and the ripper of a track, The Blackout.

You should feel sorry for anyone who says they've worn the 'Kakapo Ejaculation Helmet' as used by Sirocco the Parrot.

So like this must be the oddest thing Wellington's Te Papa Museum has on display: The Kakapo Ejaculation Helmet.

the kakapo ejaculation helmet

So the Kakapo is an endangered NZ parrot. There are like only about 100 of the cute birds about.

These green parrots obviously need to breed to survive but they aint got the message about their forth coming extinction. So concerned Kiwis have set up a breeding programme to help them out.

These people discovered that male kakapo have a tendency to engage people's heads in a sexual mating fashion. It must be some kind of fetish. They don't want do do it with their own kind, but if they see a flap of human hair, they get all frisky.

In an effort to collect Kakapo sperm for the breeding programme, some wiseguy invented 'The Ejaculation Helmet'. I kid you not, that's what it is called.

The Ejaculation Helmet is supposed to be worn by some poor sap at which time they then let the Kakapo have his wicked way on their head.

stephen fry parrot head fucking

A parrot called Sirocco infamously mated with a Zooligist's head in front of comic legend Stephen Fry which demonstrated why the idea of the helmet kinda makes sense.

Fry said at the time of the shag: "Sorry, but this is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. You are being shagged by a rare parrot."
NZ Kakapo mating on a man's head

The above picture is is from the Te Papa Museum. The accompanying caption said that the helmet was not successful.

So some guy once got fucked on the head by a parrot called Sirocco for nothing.

Kakapo Parrot

Te Papa Museum is also home to this awesome Collosal Squid

Why is Optimus Prime more awesome than Jesus?

Jesus couldn't turn into a fire engine.

Who was the original MP3 player?

Let's face it, Soundwave was always the coolest Decepticon. If he had have been an Autobot, he would have been as popular as Optimus himself.

You can see in the picture below (taken from an early cut of the end of the Revenge of the Fallen) that Soundwave has rejected his evil ways and being the original MP3 player, has taken the music to the masses:

soundwave transformers as a dj

Seeing this, Optimus Prime thought he could jump in on the scene too. The Optimus Prime Experiment brings you, Optimus Rhyme:

optimus rhyme transformer


Who is Bono?

bono macphisto

Who is Bono?

Bono is the instant karma of the spirit of Frank fucking Sinatra. Bono is love, peace and harmony. Bono is celebrity hack yacking in the prime minister's ear about freely negotiated debt. Bono is the hooker with a heart of gold. He's also the rick prick that charges you $150 to see the greatest band in the land. Bono is one quarter of U2.

Bono is the dude that wrote that song you danced to at your wedding that you didn't realise was about a couple breaking up. Bono is the guy that wrote Desire. Bono is better by design. Bono is what Chris Martin will never become. Bono's bad mood is Radiohead. Bono can be that kicking squeeling gucci little piggy.

Bono is a bluer kind of white.

Bono took the vague from Las Vegas and replaced it with MacPhisto. Bono is the singer in a rock n roll band. Bono hears ridiculous voices. Bono won't be come a minister in order to defeat a monster. Bono is Paul Hewson. Bono is not the Walrus, that was the other Beatle. Bono has the right shoes to get you through the night. Bono is Frank Sinatra's two shots of happy, one shot of sad.

Bono is living on The Edge.

Bono is a mother fucking Pope. Bono wants to be your political compass and conscious. Bono is nuclear free. Bono writes the lyrics. Bono is the guy that drinks too much wine. Bono is a preacher man, sometimes the too preachy man.

Bono is the
fish that rode the bicyle.

Looking forward to Mortal Engines!

tom attacks the shrike drawing

You may have read a book called Mortal Engines.

You may have thought that book and its three sequels were pretty awesome.

Someone else read those books and thought they were pretty awesome.

Their name?

Peter Jackson.

You can see where this is going right? Yes, Peter Jackson is making his own version of Phillip Reeve's novel about giant mechanical cities that roam a desolate waste land, looking for prey.

That's the backdrop to the adventure any way. Mortal Engines is the story of two oddly star crossed teenagers, Tom and Hester, who find themselves in great peril when they are both cast from the giant Traction City of London and the undead Stalker called Shrike is sent to find and kill them both.

Sounds straight forward a story? You'd think so but chuck in mysteries around an ancient weapon called the Medusa, some political games and some down right dirty tricks from the Mayor of London and the dashing but diabolical Thaddeus Valentine and the Mortal Engines movie is going to be one hell of a ride along.

Those this movie is a Peter Jackson led production, it is actually been directed by Jackson's protege, Christian Rivers. Rivers won an Oscar for his work on King Kong and was in line to direct a remake of the war classic The Dambusters so it's awesome to see the faith Peter has for him by letting him sit in the director's chair.

Some big names have been cast to play key roles.

Avatar's Stephen Lang and Lord of the Rings alumni Hugo Weaving are the name characters whilst Hera Hilmar has nabbed the key lead role of Hester Ness, Katherine Valentine is played by actress Leila George and the Anti-traction agent Anna Fang is played by South Korean singer-actress Jihae. It's an interesting side note to note that the Anna Fang character was partly based on Han Solo.

The thing we love the most about the novel, and what we are greatly looking forward to seeing in the movie is the concept of Municipal Darwinism.

The traction cities are the municipal part of the concept (or conceit as we see it). They are organized communities that follow their own laws and customs. For instance the city of London follows an Elizabethan hierarchy of structure. In General, the larger 'predator cities' look to consume smaller cities for their resources. Physical resources are used for fuel or re-utilised within the city.

Humans living on the captured cities can be enslaved or used as a source of protein and eaten.

That's right, eaten.

The main theory of Municipal Darwinism is a predator and prey cycle; if the bigger city or town is faster than the smaller, the smaller town will be caught and then be eaten.

Can't wait for that to be shown on the big screen!

We also think the assassin monster known as Shrike is going to be a pretty key character. He's the face of evil in the book. Or is he? There's some mystery about this character?

The Stalkers of Mortal Engines are a kind of 'universal soldier' combatant that can be programmed for warfare and assassination. Stalkers and their variations play various parts in each of Philip Reeve's Quartet of Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain.

Who is Shrike? Who is his true master and is he in control of his own destiny? We can only imagine he will be designed to be as scary as some of the dark beasts found in Lord of the Rings, such as the Mouth of Sauron

Cant. Hardly. Wait.

Well it turned put to be a bit of a box office turd. Even pulling some Star Wars moves, didn't save it. 

Bumblebee spin off movie has some sting in its tail?

Bumblebee movie logo

This buzzed bee is apparently the logo from the Bumblebee spinoff movie.

U2 delivers Joshua Tree set list with new song.

joshua tree tour u2
U2 have played for the first time ever, the classic Joshua Tree album live in concert. It's the 30th anniversary of the album's release and it has been re-issued.

The venue was BC Place, in Vancouver, Canada.  

U2 opened the show with some early classics that were released prior to the Joshua Tree and then the band kicked of the album run through with Where The Streets Have No Name.

U2 ended the quick with a standard set of encore songs but notably debuted a new song, The Little Things That Give You Away.

Mumford and Sons opened for U2.

Main Set List 

Sunday Bloody Sunday
New Year's Day
A Sort Of Homecoming
Where The Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
With Or Without You
Bullet The Blue Sky
Running To Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God's Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers Of The Disappeared with El Pueblo Vencera

Beautiful Day
Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
Miss Sarajevo

Here's the video of the new song which Bono said was A Song of Experience, meaning it's going to feature on the forthcoming album, Songs of Experience.

This new album is the follow up to Songs of Innocence. When paired the two albums will form a duet which reflects the life the band has lived. 

A design for life

Early McQuarrie design

Ralph McQuarrie.

Doug Chiang.

These are just two of my favourite things about Star Wars.

To paraphrase Maz Kanata, "Who are they?"

They are two of the biggest visual influences on Star Wars. Ralph McQuarrie was the original concept design artist who translated the ideas George had in his brain by way of paint to paper. Doug Chiang was the lead artist for the prequels are carried over into Rogue One and the Force Awakens.

And boy, between them and about probably 1000 other artists, many a conceptual drawing has been made before even a foot of film is shot or recorded in any Star Wars movie. Indeed, word has it that the U-Wing in Rogue One went through 781 different drawings and iterations before the final design proof was approved to get things into production. 781!

The brief of a concept designer is simple. Take the ideas the director and script have and turn them into something visual.

Something that can be built.

Something that can be sewn and worn.

Something that can be rendered to binary code and projected across the stars.

Something, something Star Wars.

Easy eh?

Here's many many pages of concept art that has been design by Chiang, McQuarrie and host of others that have been given the OK by George Lucas,

Original Trilogy concept art

ANH was the movie that started it all. Sure it was standing on the shoulders of giants such as Kubrick and that guy the directed Forbidden Planet but no one had ever envisaged science fiction in space like George Lucas,

Prequel films concept designs

Sequel Trilogy movie conceptual artwork

Kind of like how Mortal Engines keeps rolling on, so do the Star Wars movies. Here's some concept designs from a movie that was 40 years in the makin
jyn rescue rogue one art

Rogue One 

Given Rogue One's director Gareth Edwards was known for making is own special effects for his first movie, the expectations about the quality of the look of Rogue One and how it ties into the feel of A New Hope were huge. Edwards delivered visually like no other Star Wars movie had and large part of that was the effort that went into the design.


How to make good tasting home brew beer

A handy guide to making good tasting home brew

You're here because you want to make beer. 

Delicious tasting beer. 

Beer you'd be proud to share with your mates and father-in-law. To make him jealous of your beer making prowess. 

We've put together this sweet guide to making beer. 

Jump in. 
adding hops to home brew beer
Delicious beer hops - it's easy to add them to your brew

7 tips for the beginner beer brewer to think about before starting brewing

If you're about to take the brewing plunge and brew your first batch of home brew beer, you're already a champion! 

If you take the time to do it well you will be rewarded with a refreshingly delicious beverage. A strong start to your 'brewing campaign' will give you the confidence that brewing home brew is actually fairly easy and you might continue with it as a hobby.

It should be considered a sport, but for the purists...

There's definitely a lot to learn, so if you are a first time beer brewer, you might want to have a gander at these basic brewing tips before you begin.

1. That starter beer kit your partner gave your for Christmas is not enough

While the beer kit you were given for Christmas by your loving wife or partner will help you on your way to making a good home brew beer, you can do better. 

Kits that only come with a sugar or dextrose alone will contribute to a beer that's weak in the sense that it will seem thin in terms of its 'mouth feel'.

Think of mouth feel as that sense of 'full heartiness' that you get from that first mouthful of a well deserved beer. In response to this need, the home brewer should consider adding more malt - either liquid or dry malt. For the dry malt, a 'brew enhancer' pack is what you need.

In this writer's experience, making a home brew beer kit without the enhancer most definitely results in a weak beer, so make sure your starter brewing kit comes with it or at the least, head to your local brew shop and grab a packet. 

It shouldn't cost more than ten bucks and it's worth the extra expense.

You should also get some hops

green hops
Hops on the plant
While malt kits come with 'pre-mixed' hops, you may wish to consider adding extra hops to your brew. 

There are plenty of different kinds of hops, and for best results match the kind of beer you are brewing to the hops known to best complement that style.

You can add hops at any time you like.

2. You'd best best to brew a dark beer like an ale than a lager

The truth is that the darker the beer, the more forgiving it will be in the home brewing process. It's very easy to make a mistake with your first home brew so a basic beer style that's good to drink and is also easy to take care of is the brew you are after. 

While you should feel free to start with a lager, and yes, many beer kits do come with lagers, bear in mind that lagers need to be cooled rather more quickly than an ale or stout and they can also require a bit more yeast in the fermentation process.

3. In the cold, cold night

Fermentation is a process that requires just the right kind of temperatures and the right kind of times. Different temperatures brew different kinds of beers. A constant temperature is also very important as the yeast can react to a temperature variance in ways that are not good for tasty beer! 

So when doing your first brews, make sure it can be done in a warmish area and one that's going to keep that temperature. 

A very rough guide is that you should aim to brew lagers between 10-14 degrees, and get those ales done between 18-21 degrees.

4. You don't need to bottle straight away, just because the fermentation bottle has stopped bubbling

If the bubbles in the airlock appear to have finished, this is not necessarily a sign that the fermentation process has halted. It's quite likely that there's still some fermentation quietly happening in the fermenter drum or carboy. 

So let that play out a a while longer. 

It could be that you let your beer rest longer than the written instructions that came with your beer kit. When you've given your beer a fair chance, bottle away.

5. Don't bottle too early as well!

Simply put, don't bottle your beer too early. This is basically point four repeated. If you bottle before fermentation has completed, you could be in for some trouble with gushers and exploding beer. 

Did you ever see that Breaking Bad episode where Hank woke up in the middle of the night thinking he was being shot at but in reality it was just his home brew exploding

That's what happens if you bottle your beer too early. 

Don't be like Hank Schrader, let your beer rest in the fermenter just a little bit longer. There's a real likelihood your beer will taste better for it.

6. Using a hydrometer will help you develop your home brewer's 'Sixth Sense' about how your brew is going

When used correctly, a hydrometer,will help you to work out when your beer batch has finished fermenting. 

If you get the same reading twice in a row, the fermentation process has likley finished - but if I was me, 

I'd leave it just a couple of days  before I'd bottle. Trust me on this one. 

You can also use the hydrometer to work out the alcohol content of your beer. Make sure you take your readings!

7. Good things come to those who wait

Once you've managed to get your precious liquid gold into your well sterilized bottles we can only imagine how keen you are to sample your efforts. You're going to have to wait. The instructions in your beer kit may suggest you need to wait two or three weeks.

Believe them.

Let your beer have time to make those bubbles.

You will be rewarded with a better tasting beer. If you can't wait, get yourself busy with a second brew and at the very least, give your equipment a good clean.

So that's plenty of tips and tricks to beer in mind! And now onto actually making beer!

The best beginner's guide to easily brewing beer from a beer kit

This simple guide will take you through making your first batch of beer, step by step, guiding you through like an angel sent from the Beer Gods themselves....

There can be nothing more rewarding after a hard day's work than a delicious home made beer. 

This beginner's guide is a 'how to' for using beer kits. There is no boiling of the wort wizardry here, just home brewing 101 tips.

The brewing of beer is an act of scientific exploration. It's the science of fermentation, bacteria and microscopic fungus commonly known as yeast. It's also about good old home economics and it's a little bit about applying some common sense.

If you follow this beer making advice (and of course give due consideration to the instructions that come on the can of malt - due consideration, not slavish attention!) you probably wont stray too far from producing a beer that you will enjoy to drink.

At this point I assume you are ready to make beer

I'm going to assume you have a brand new beer extract kit for making beer. Your loving partner may have given it to you for Christmas (mine did!) or maybe you got there yourself out of curiosity.
  • You have all the ingredients and supplies to hand. A can of malt extract with some yeast (and it's not an old can). 
  • Some brewing sugar, dextrose or a brew enhancer (we really recommend the enhancer).
  • You will have all the equipment. You'll have a giant plastic bottle or possibly a 30 litre drum or 5 gallon glass carboy). Be ready to make about 23 litres of beer. 
  • You have access to boiling water and also to cold water. You might even have bought some beer hops to add to your wort.
  • You'll have a clean working space such as a clean kitchen bench and you'll have enough time to not be interrupted. When I brew from home brew kits I do it after dinner when the kids are in bed and the dishes are done. 

It's now time to clean and sanitize your beer making equipment

Your beer wort needs a warm and clean environment in which to start fermentation. 

That means all that horrible bacteria that's lurking on your stirring spoon and on the inside of your fermenter drum or carboy bottle needs to be thoroughly cleaned and then sanitized.

Your home brew starter kit should have provided you with a sachet of a cleanser and also a sanitizer (people often refer to this process as sterilization, just go with it). 

Use it.

Leave your drum to soak for as long as possible (even though it's new, it's likely had all the equipment stored inside it if it's a drum, so heaps of opportunity for beer bugs to find a spot to launch an attack on your wort in there).

If you are going to be a backyard beer brewing, this probably is the start of your habit of cleaning and sanitizing all your equipment every single time you make beer.

It's also good to know you cannot get methanol poisoning from brewing beer.

There are plenty of beer making methods. We can do it in four easy steps.

Step 1 - Malt Up

beer extract kit sitting in a pot of water
If you're smart, you may have already put your opened tin of extract malt into a pot of boiling water so that it's warmed up and can be easily poured into your fermenter.

Just like this picture here.

If brewing during winter, I leave it sitting on the top of my closed fireplace, this works quite well.

At this point I like to put on some fancy surgical gloves so as to avoid the mess that's probably about to happen all over your kitchen bench. 

It probably helps to keep things clean. Gosh knows where my hands have been! 

Add your extract malt with 3 litres of boiling water to your fermenter. Stir with a sterilized stirring device until it's all dissolved.

Your brew kit probably came with a beer enhancer, now is the time to add it and dissolve as well.

Step 2 - Water is the essence of aqua

It's time to add the water. I like to use the garden hose so I carry the fermenter to the kitchen back door and go for gold. The water in NZ where I'm from is very clean and drinkable. 

If the water is of poor quality where you come from, you may wish to find a better source of water, at the least boil it maybe. The basic rule is if you can handle drinking a glass of water from it, that's your source for your beer batch. You can always use a ph meter to test the water.

Fill your fermenter to 6 gallons of water or to the 23 litre mark. Stick with that, your malt kit recipe has been designed with exactly this amount of water in mind. If you you add too much water, you will dilute your beer. 

That said adding less water may result in a stronger beer. If you're a beginner, don't try your luck.

Step 3 - Yeastie Boys

It's time to add the yeast. This is called 'pitching'. Seasoned pros will tell you to never use the yeast that comes in your start kit or with your can of malt as it may be old or damaged or whatever.

I'm thinking you just want to make some bloody beer so throw it into to your fermenter and worry about that kind of issue when it actually occurs.


Make sure the temperature of the water is close to in line with the instructions on the tin of malt - you want to give the yeast a chance to activate so don't put it in or 'pitch' it if you're out of whack. 

That said in my experience just pitch the yeast into the drum or carboy when you're ready. But be warned, only pitch your yeast when you've added the extra cold water - if you pitch your yeast directly into the boiled wort, you will kill the yeast and you will not have fermentation occur at all.

Step 4 - 'Hop' to it, my little bunny

You're nearly done! 

If your beer kit came with some hops or you were smart enough to procure some, chuck them in now, maybe half the packet.

Some might recommend to add the hops 5 days into the fermentation process but we say just get on with it.

Close up the fermenter, make sure the drum or cap is on firmly. Add your airlock with boiled water inside (some really keen people use Vodka to keep bugs out! Which is crazy as you're trying to make alcohol, not waste it). 

You'll use this airlock to keep track of fermentation by observing the CO2 bubbles as they are released during fermentation.  A failure to see bubbles does not mean fermentation is not happening.

Step 5 - Let fermenting beer lie - be patient 

It is now a waiting game. 

Once you've put your beer in a suitable place where the temperature will be fairly consistent, leave her alone.

Set and forget...
working out alcohol content
Taking a hydrometer reading

Well not quite - if you have a hydrometer, take a reading and write it down somewhere.

You will need the record to be able to work out when fermentation is complete and also work out the alcohol content ABV of your beer (see the link above for how to do the equation).

A loose guide to known when fermentation has usually completed when the bubbles have finished passing through the airlock. Once you are fairly confident this is the case, you can begin to think about bottling your beer

This is an occasion where you should consider completely ignore the instructions on the can and leave your brew in the fermenter for about 2 weeks. Leaving your beer to brew a few days more is important! 

While at face value fermentation is complete, the yeast will still be interacting with everything and this extra time will greatly improve the quality of your beer.

Be patient!

So the short summary on how to make your home made beer

1. Add your malt from the can to 3 litres of hot water
2. Add any brew enhancer or dextrose as well as any hops. Stir it all up.
3. Fill fermenter to 23 litres or 6 gallons.
4. Pitch in your yeast in
5. Add the airlock, firmly seal the drum
6. Ensure fermentation is complete. You may want to use a hydrometer during this stage
7. Bottle when ready but it's best to let your brew sit for a while

So that's the rough guide to brewing beer from a kit. As you can read, it's a pretty straight forward exercise and you don't need a Bachelor of Food Technology to get it right.

The absolute key things to bear in mind are having properly sanitized equipment, follow this guide and it's hopefully helpful beer making instructions more or less and don't stress.

So now it's time to bottle your beer

So once you are sure that fermentation is complete and you've let your beer sit for at least a week after the bubbles have stopped coming through the airlock, then you're ready to bottle your home brew. 

What equipment you need to bottle your beer

  • Enough bottles. If you have done 23 litres of beer then you would need 30 x 750 ml bottles. Plastic or glass, it doesn't matter
  • Bottle caps
  • bottle capper
  • sanitizing agent
  • A big bucket receptacle for soaking bottles in
  • Ordinary sugar

What kind of bottles do I need to use for bottling?

You can use plastic or glass. I use glass so I can recycle and feel good about saving the planet (yes, I'm a hero, send me a medal or some beer). If you truly hate planet Earth you can use plastic. 

The beauty of using plastic bottles is that if they over carbonate due to non complete fermentation or excessive priming sugar they will only split and not explode. 

If you've even seen a beer bottle explode spontaneously, you'll know what a damn mess it makes with glass shards everywhere! 

Not to mention it could be pretty awful if you were standing next to one at the time it blew...

You should also bear in mind that not all glass bottles are intended to be used for home brewing so may not be strong enough for both the fermentation process and the capping process so choose wisely - maybe even practice on the odd bottle to make sure it won't crack when you do the capping. 

In New Zealand most of the craft beer bottles can be used and recycled 750 ml bottles from brands like Steinlager, Tiger and Heinekin are fine to use.

Yes, it's time to bloody sanitise again

Just like you did when you brewed you beer batch, you are going to need to sanitise the beer bottles. 

This is because a second round of fermentation is going to occur and again the yeast needs an opportunity do to it's thing, free of microbes that could be lurking on the inside of the bottles.

It's this secondary fermentation that puts the CO2 in your beer and cleans up the remaining sugars. 

So get all your bottles in the receptacle that you are going to soak them in. I use a plastic washing basket that's big enough to hold all the bottles I need. I then get some sodium percarbonate and add it to a cup of boiling water so it dissolves quickly.

I then add it to the basket and then get the garden hose and fill it up to the brim.

You will need to wrangle your bottles as they will try and float. Push them down with your hands and make sure they are all submerged to they they all get the sanitiser in them.

The say you only need a minimum of 10 minutes to let them soak but having been burned before with a contaminate getting into my beer, I make sure there's little chance at the bottling stage. 

I leave them in to soak for a few hours and in direct sunlight if possible for as they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

If all that seems just too difficult and you are time short, you just get a bucket and fill it with your steriliser powder. You can then just dunk the bottles in, give them a quick swirl, drain the water back into the bucket. 

Whatever you do, when you're happy, drain your bottles and place them where you wish to do the bottling. I often do it on the picnic table in the backyard where there is plenty of space. A clean kitchen bench is handy too.

Filling the bottles

There are two ways you can add the sugar to your beer - you can prime the whole batch in one go by siphoning your beer into a second container and add your liquid sugar as you do so or you can add sugar to each bottle individually. 

This is our preferred method as in our experience, it's less mucking around, which seems counter-intuitive but there you go.

A benefit of siphoning and them priming the batch is that there will be less sediment in your beer.

While many beer brewers will suggest that you use a slightly heaped tea spoon of sugar for each bottle, I personally try and do a little less as some of my beers in the past have been over carbonated, due I think to too much sugar being put in.

I like to use a small funnel to add the sugar in - it's quicker and less messy than trying to get the sugar in using just a spoon!

You are then ready to add the beer. Simply place the bottle under the tap of your drum and you are good to go. Be wary of fast flowing beer. Fill the bottles to a level that you would normally expect to see for commercial beer. 

That's about 40 mm from the top. As I understand it, that will assist with optimum secondary fermentation. 

If you have a bottling wand, feel free to use it! Place it inside the tap. You'll need to be firm with it and also be aware that they can suddenly fly out with an open tap - meaning you'll lose beer. So for that reason I'd never wander away from the drum when there's a bottling valve in play.

It's also capping day

When you've filled all your bottles it's now time to cap the bottles. That process should be self explanatory and relative to the kind of bottle capper you have. 

The key thing to remember is to check that each cap as made a satisfactory seal. If you can hear hissing from a bottle, the seal was not done correctly. Remove the cap and try again with a new cap.

I also mark all the seals with a Vivid or Sharpie so that I know what the particular batch is. This is pretty important when you have different batches and different kinds of beers on the go!

You may wish to give the successfully bottles a gentle tip or to to make sure that all the sugar is in the liquid and has a chance to dissolve. This is also an opportunity to inspect for broken seals.

Bottling beer can be a time consuming exercise so either make sure you can be free from interruptions or you can choose to bottle in small groups e.g. 5 bottles at a time when you have a spare moment. This won't cause any problems.

Proper storage of your beer

It's often best to initially store your beer in a warm place. This will encourage secondary fermentation to commence (this is sometimes described as bottle conditioning). 

The ideal temperature range is between approx 18 - 25°C for 5 to 7 days. 

After that period, you should leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C. You should then leave the beer for a total minimum of three weeks since bottling date before some well deserved consumption.

You should not easily dismiss this advice about correct temperature storage of your beer. 

I had an experience last year when in the middle of winter I just bottled the beer and left it in the shed for about a month. When I when to crack open the first beer, there was no fizz, just cold flat beer. No fizz on the second or third either. 

I thought I had ruined my beer somehow. 'Had fermentation actually occurred'? I wondered. 

Of course it had. The problem was the freezing cold. I brought the beers inside and left them in the living room. I waited a week, and boom I had fizzy beer. #winning. 

The longer you wait, the better your beer will be.

Here's a boat load more tricks and tips and mistakes to watch out for when brewing beer

glass of beer with nice head.

Do I have to sanitize my brewing equipment every time I make beer?

I thought we went through this. Yes you do bloody have to clean, sanitize and sterilize your beer brewing equipment, right down to the bottle caps and stirring spoon.

There are plenty of tricks and cheats you can do to product quality tasting beer but the one thing you can't escape from is the proper cleaning, sanitizing and sterilization of your beer gear.

There's a difference between sanitizing and sterilizing. 

Sanitizing is a technical term that means a certain allowable amount of microbes to survive on the surface of your equipment. Sterilizing is like sanitizing, but it removes all the microorganisms (the bugs and germs that will ruin your beer).

Think of washing your hands with hot water and soap as sanitization as it kills a few bugs but not all and is an acceptable means of cleaning your hands.

If you want to kill all the bugs on your hand so the skin is sterile with no bugs on it anywhere, then I suggest you boil your hands in water...

For the most part, the typical home brewers doesn't need to sterilize, only sanitize. The chemicals commonly used for homebrew brewing are made to sanitize.

Now we've got those definitions clear, there are several methods that you can try to 'sterilize' your gear. 

We'll note a couple in detail:

You can drown everything in bleach

A cheap and cost effective way to get your gear free of bugs is to drown your gear in bleach. But what is bleach? Bleach is usually a solution of  chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide and they act as an oxidising agent.

They are great for all kinds of things such as removing bad smells, making your whites whiter and your brights brighter and for home brewing. A popular American brand of bleach is Chlorox but there are hundreds of brands of bleach you could use.

Use sodium percarbonate as a sanitizing agent

Using sodium percarbonate is our preferred method as it works well, no rinse is required and it's very easy to order in bulk online.

If you've ever tried to buy sodium percarbonate from a specialist beer brewery shop, you'll know that you can get a small bottle or container of it that will cost you a small fortune.

If you can buy it in bulk from online supplier, you'll do well to nab some as using it will effectively bring down your cost per brew. 

To use sodium percarbonate you simply add it to water. I like to add hot or ever boiling water to the drum so as to get the action of the chemical happening pretty quickly. The boiling water also helps kill off any nasty bugs hiding about as well.
using laundry soaker for beer bottle sanitisation
A home brand with sodium percabonate.
Here's another trick, this chemical is basically what you might know as Tide or Napisan or any product that's brand name tries to use the word 'oxy' as in oxygen cleaning or oxidization agent.

Chances are you already have some in your home laundry so feel free to use that. I have done so several times with no problems whatsoever. Non scented house brands are awesome.

Other methods of sanitisation and sterilization
  • Applying heat - use your oven for a good dry heat.
  • Boiling in water
  • Use and autoclave or pressure cooker (this seems like a bit of over kill though)
  • An ordinary house dishwasher machine can be used for sanitation

How do I tell if my beer fermented properly?

Fermentation is the name of the game when making beer. It you don't have fermentation, you simply don't have beer. You have just have a 23 litre bucket of watery malt.

Home brewers can face fermentation issues and a common problem is that fermentation has not begun. A typical sign is that there is no bubbles coming through the airlock. Is this really a sign of a lack of fermentation?

The first thing to beer in mind is that it can take at least 15 hours before the bubbles start gurgling through the airlock. 

Don't go drowning your sorrows just yet if the bubbles haven't started. If you think that your beer hasn't started brewing there's some problem solving you can do. 

If you are using a glass fermenter you can look for a dark scum that rings around the water level mark.

Or check for signs of foam.

 If using a plastic drum you might be able to see through to check for the scum. Another trick is to take out the air lock and try and peek through the whole to identify scum or foam. If it's there, fermentation is happening.

You could also check the gravity by using a hydrometer. I'll assume you know how to use one.  The beer has usually finished fermenting if the final gravity reading is is 1/3 to 1/4 of the original gravity. This of course means you took a reading when you first prepared your beer.

If you have the same reading 24 hours apart - that's your final reading and an indication that the fermentation is finished. 

Remember, don't bottle your beer just yet, let it mellow for a bit longer. The longer the better your brew will probably be.

So why wasn't there any bubbles in the airlock? 

That's a fair question to ask. It could be that there was a leak that allows the CO2 to escape (to teach you to suck rotten eggs, those bubbles in the air lock are carbon dioxide gas, the bi-product of fermentation). 

You may have not tightened the drum enough or possible not screwed in the tap properly. It's a good idea to check this is the case before you worry too much.

If you didn't see any signs of fermentation it could be that it's too cold to brew. Is your batch of beer in a warm enough place? If you're brewing during summer months, it's probably not too cold.

If you've left your beer in a cold place in the shed, then it may be. If this is the base then you might want to consider moving your fermenter.

You could consider wrapping it with  blankets. This is a handy trick and will help to keep the chill of your beer. I suspect this trick works best if the beer is already warm enough to brew...

Here's some problem solving tips for when you don't see airlock bubbles:

  • Check for leaks that allow the CO2 to escape - tighten the drum
  • Look for foamy residue
  • Look for scum residue
  • Make sure the temperature is appropriate to the kind of beer you are making
  • Consider using a heat pad to ensure a consistent temperature

beer bottles for brewing

Here's 5 mistakes every novice beer maker should watch out for

1. Wash, wash away your sins

We actually mean sterilize. Sterilize the heck out of everything you use. If you're starting out as a home brewer, your kit should contain a cleansing and sterilizing agent. You NEED to make sure that at the very least your drum is fully clean and sterilized before your start your brewery process.

There is nothing more disappointing that going to bottle your brew and recognizing the scent of a bad brew that has been contaminated by nasty bugs.

2. Temperature 

It would be a mistake to think that home brewing is basically a 'set and forget' process. It's not. Well, it can be and a key part of that is making sure that where ever you leave your beer to ferment that it's a place that has the desired temperature and that it is a constant temperature.

Don't leave your beer outside on the back porch to do it's thing! Leave it wrapped in blankets in your garden shed if you have to, but make sure it's in a generally constantly heated place.

My work colleague leaves her beer brewing in the bath tub!

3. Those bubbles...

Just because the bubbles have stopped bubbling through the airlock, it doesn't mean the fermentation process is complete. It would be a real shame for your bottled beer to start exploding if you haven't given the beer a chance to finish the process. Use a hydrometer to ensure the fermentation is finished before you at least consider getting that beer into glass bottles.

Hint, wait some more time as well.

3. Running before you can walk

Get the basics of beer brewing down first. Before you run off and try and make the most fanciest beer you can that features some imported yeast from England and three different kinds of hops, learn the principles of beer making.

You will enjoy your first few brewing experiences if you keep them simple. Then you can start to branch out into more complicated recipes and practices.

4. Not keeping records of what you did

If you write down what you did, what you used, when you did it and why you'll have a good basis on which to make judgements about your beer brewing failures and successes. If you find that you've pulled off a stunner of a beer, you might be able to figure out just exactly how that happened. It could be the difference between remembering that you used a certain kind of hops in your brew!

5.  You drink your beer way too early

Patience my young Padawan. It is a mistake for sure to drink your beer too early. Post bottling, your beer needs time to carbonate. It also needs time to chill and do its thing. The fermentation process is in a sense a simple chemical reaction but there is a complex relationship going on with the beer's ingredients that need time to sort themselves out.

The patient beer drinker who leaves his beer at least three weeks before indulging will be a better beer maker for it. If you can make it to 5 or 6 weeks before you taste, the better your beer should taste.